Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Imagine a Creek

Pea gravel bottom,
water the colour of well brewed tea,
steep grassy banks, six feet high
dark green grass, lush, long
combed by the currents.

It is raining.
It is always raining here.

The clay soil is immune to the rain.
The grass a rain coat.

No matter how hard it rains.
The creek remains clear.

The clay is dense, oily.

The clay doesn't give a fuck
about the rain.

Some potter tried to dig some up.
The shovel bent
The pickaxe penetrated but
the clay grasped the tool
so tightly that the potter
had to leave it behind.

rust claimed the pickaxe.

Ever expanding circles
blur the water.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What's With All This Depression.

Who are all these voices telling me how I should be? Telling me that being "happy" in my unalienable right. That depression can be cured. That meds, or therapy, or a solid 12 step program could, individually or combined, alleviate this heaviness that I am "burdened" with. This is a difficult area to explore, for there are many opinions about depression, many that want to offer advice, many that don't want to see others suffering.  There is lots of spin because there are profits to be made. In reality, it is a life and death issue, nonchalant advice is dangerous. I write this so I can gain clarity, to review the path I am following at this time.

So, for me, I have chosen to simply  live with depression. After, last year, coming to the point where I had unpacked my suicide plan, fantasying about it each day to help me make it though the day, I needed to change something. And what I chose was not to consider it a problem that needs to solved. Not hoping that the demon of depression is exorcized.

I took some idea's I had read and brought them to the councilor who was instrumental in my recovery.  I shared with him these ideas. In 'Care of the Soul' Thomas Moore asks the question, "What if 'depression' were simply a state of being, neither good nor bad, something the soul does in its own good time and for its own good reasons?" He then goes on to state, "we might see melancholy more as a valid way of being rather than as a problem that needs to be eradicated."  James Hillman, from "A Blue Fire," writes:

"It's only that you needn't take all those moods and all those weaknesses and helplessnesses and so on as literal. One thing you do learn in therapy is how, when you have a depression, it belongs to you but you don't identify with the mood. You live your life in the depression. You work with the depression. It doesn't completely stop you. Depression is worst when we try to climb out of it, get on top of it."

I have been hoping to be free of depression for the past forty years. Alcohol was my first pitch at being free, then pot, religion, confronting relatives, work, exercise, schooling, running, porn, internet chat, and finally returning to alcohol. I could do nothing in moderation, trying anything that would relieve the darkness, the sadness. I wanted to be anything but me. After all, it is my right! That hope that I would be depression free, happy and fearless, was slowly killing me.

And I came into recovery, was shown the tools of A.A. and the 12 Steps. Discovered the important of recovery, of unity, and of service. Of letting others into my life, of keeping no secrets. When I shared with my home group that I was fixating on my suicide plan, the plan lost it's power. Honesty, opening and willingness. To keep going forward, one step at a time. And when I fall, to get up and return to the journey. And when I finally came to the point where I was willing to accept my depression as it was, there was a turning point.  Not a freedom from the sadness but a discovery about what it had to offer and teach.

More from James Hillman:

Yet through depression we enter depths and in depth find soul. Depression is essential to the tragic sense of life. It moistens the dry soul, and dries the wet. It brings refuge, limitation, focus, gravity, weight, and humble powerlessness. It reminds of death. The true revolution begins in the individual who can be true to his or her depression. Neither jerking oneself out of it, caught in cycles of hope and despair, nor suffering through it till it turns, nor theologizing it -- but discovering the consciousness and depths it wants. So begins the revolution on behalf of soul.

So I chase my shadow, the Jungian archetype shadow that is. I explore this shadow through the resentments I feel towards others, through looking at my fears, by writing poetry that explores my beginnings, by meeting with my councilor, by continuing to work the steps, by dreaming, imagining and more poems. By opening myself up to deeply buried feelings. By being patient.

And just like in early recovery, the process is the same.  A breaking down of old foundational beliefs and a reconstruction of those beliefs into a new structure. A structure I cannot foresee, a process I have to trust. Just for today.

Nietzsche is quoted as saying "Be careful, lest in casing out your demon you exorcise the best thing in you."  Hmmmm, self acceptance?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Seven Years

Today is my sobriety birthday. Seven years ago today, I checked into a rehab and have been living "one day at a time" since. I would not be sober if left to my own care. It was the hand of God, the fellowship of A.A., the grace of my family, and the help of professionals that has seen me through these past years. I am grateful for the many people, including other bloggers, who have helped me to stay sober.

Depression has continued to dog me. This time round, I decided to chase the shadow, to go into it and find out if it has a bottom (apparently not.) Working with a councilor, we explored using the ideas of Carl Jung, James Hillman, and Thomas Moore. Using the premise that depression is not something to be cured, but something that can be lived with, integrated into one's life. I have a constant ringing in my ear, the specialist says the ear is damaged, it will always ring. If I focus on it, the ringing loud, able to keep me awake. If I can find a way to put the noise aside it does not impact my life, I can sleep well. The same with depression, I have danced with it for forty years. When I focus on it, make those feelings front and center, I struggle. The urge to drink, to act out on the internet, can become an obsession at those times when the feelings of depression engage me. We are finding a way though this, a strange journey. I never know where the next foot hold is going to be. Faith and trust.

God has kept putting people in my life that help me stay sober. Other men who have asked me to sponsor them, have given me such wonderful gifts. The opportunity to help start and being involved in a step study for men has giving me many opportunities for service, opportunities to stay sober. My home group and our local district have also given my opportunity for service. Helping others has been the best way to stay sober as I relearn how to navigate through life.

Grateful for the members of my home group who kept on loving me when I could no longer love myself. Who endured my resentments. Who teach me what love is.

I have learned to keep no secrets, not to let the ideas that pop into my head have any privacy. I need someone I can trust explicitly so I can be open and honest. My best intentions can kill me. I had secretly unpacked my suicide plan at one point, it was overwhelming me till I finally shared it with others, then it lost it's power. I love that bumper sticker: "Don't believe everything you think"

I am grateful for my partner who stuck with me through this painful period. It has been hard on her, I have been hard to live with. My ego has needed fresh deflation, I spend more time in the service of A.A., and my character is changing subtly. All difficult for our relationship. Yet we have managed to fall in love again, to have a new relationship.

I have also discovered poetry, taking some creative writing classes. Writing poetry has become a rich tap into my emotions, allowing me to see deeply. Reading poetry shows me that I am not alone.

Jung was right when he spoke of synchronicity. I think that God conspires to use the many elements that make up our lives to draw us closer to Her or Him.

"Bidden or Not Bidden, God is Present"

Friday, April 20, 2012

A plump, fluffy nest.

"True ambition is not what we thought it was. True ambition is the deep desire to live usefully and walk humbly under the grace of God."  (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, 125)

I struggled to get thoughts and emotions expressed last night and have returned to this blog to try to get them out here. Thoughts on the effort I am putting out trying to control my work situation and my income, all the while looking for balance with home life and recovery. All the effort with the corresponding lack of effect sets my emotions roiling, leaving me with a dark desire to numb out. All this manipulating I am attempting,  trying to get the perfect balance, will eventually result in the production of enough self-pity that I will crawl back into the dark cave I once lived in before recovery found me. The caustic solution of alcohol, porn, and chat dissolving my life.
"When a job still looked like a mere means of getting money rather than an opportunity for service, when the acquisition of money for financial independence looked more important that a right dependence upon God, we were still the victims of unreasonable fears. And these were fears which would make a serene and useful existence, at any financial level, quite impossible" (121.)
Financial security, a desire to make sure that my nest is warm and comfy as I get close to retirement, is at the root of my fears. The point of all this unsatisfying effort. The cause of the sharp arguments I have with my partner. Self-striving instead of right dependence opens up the abyss for me.

I will never be perfect. Six years sober and I struggle with fear, anger, and self-pity, but I need to remind myself that those struggles are not nearly at the level it was when I first found, by God's grace, into recovery. At a meeting a few days ago, someone spoke of the difficulty he had in coming to terms with his own characteristics, how being able to love himself, as he was, alluded him for years and years. Apparently, a journey that many of use take as we trudge down the road of life.

I am not going to resolve my issues here. I want to back off from my striving, putting myself back in God's hands. To continue on in faith. Joy and peace come not when I fight for them or demand them. But when I try to help others in my own way, with warts and quills.

Step Twelve: "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs."
Just for today.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Helping others the easy way.

It's been a while since I've visited here, still sober, still clean.

Went back to an old place last night, after spending time with a new friend who is deeply struggling. The feeling of impotence, of being unable to resolve the pain they are going through, leaves me feeling sad and grumpy. It resolves to the place of "where is God?"

The only advice I could give myself is that we can stay sober, no matter what our circumstances are, if we stay close to our Higher Power and to our friends. That crawling back into our caves so we can feel protected from all the perceived evil that is out there is the worst option possible. We all go through suffering in our lives so best do it in the company of others. A.A. is called a fellowship for a reason.

I, at one time, deeply believed that prayer was about changing the circumstances we find ourselves in. That it was my job to persuade God to do different, make life easier for the one that was suffering. If my prayers were not answered according to my demands, then the fault was mine, that I was living in a fashion the displeased God and he was punishing both me and the person I was praying for because of my actions. It was always about me. I was the centre of action! (Think I should take a bow now.)

Today, prayer is about letting go and learning to trust. Trusting God to work through the circumstances to change us, change others. It was pain that brought me to sobriety, and that is true for most alcoholics, circumstances was the agent of our change.

There is a passage in the 12&12 on prayer. On page 104:

We also fall into another similar temptation. We form ideas as to what we think God's will is for other people. We say to ourselves, “This one ought to be cured of his fatal malady,” or “That one ought to be relieved of his emotional pain,” and we pray for these specific things. Such prayers, of course, are fundamentally good acts, but often they are based upon a supposition that we know God's will for the person for whom we pray. This means that side by side with an earnest prayer there can be a certain amount of presumption and conceit in us. It is A.A.'s experience that particularly in these cases we ought to pray that God's will, whatever it is, be done for others as well as for ourselves.

Step 11 is about prayer and mediation. We pray to understand God's will for us and for the power to carry it out. I recently read this passage attributed to Thomas Merton:

The will of God is not a 'fate' to which we must submit, but a creative act in our life that produces something absolutely new, something hitherto unforeseen by the laws and established patterns. Our cooperation consists not solely in conforming to the external laws, but in opening our wills to this mutually creative act.

No magic wands. Just trust and cooperation. Doing just my part, not God's part. My friend who is struggling will have to do the same. What happens is between him and his Higher Power. We get to watch lives change.

I think I'll leave the wishing well. Thanks for letting me share.